Another Fur Trade Days is in the books, with events making their return to the courthouse lawn after a one-year hiatus, the second year of street dances drawing larger crowds and a bigger carnival to entertain families.
Fur Trade Days board members said Monday they were pleased overall with how the weekend went.
“Things at the courthouse went really well,” said FTD President Miles Bannan. “Trying something new for a year made people realize how much they missed it,” he added of last year’s attempt to relocate the events to the downtown business district.
Survey results after last year’s FTD showed overwhelming support for returning the after-parade events to the courthouse lawn. This year’s festivities included the Rotary Club’s World Championship Buffalo Chip Throw, which drew 127 contestants, the Traders Market and several speakers from the Nebraska Humanities Council.
“We had lots of good comments on the humanity speakers,” said board member Jessy Roberts.
Downtown, visitors and residents enjoyed Bands on Bordeaux Thursday night, which was also opening night for the carnival. The match proved to be a good one, with a large attendance at both.
“They said that was their best Thursday all summer,” said board member Kristina Reeves, referring to MACS Carnival, which brought 14 rides, as well as games and food trucks.
“They did a wonderful job coordinating and communicating with the city to make the downtown really alive and exciting for families,” Roberts added. Family activities were a void that has been brought up to board members, and they are happy this year’s bigger carnival helped solve that issue.
The Ferris wheel was the most popular ride, and it will be back next year. The board has already negotiated next year’s appearance by MACS Carnival, Roberts said. Some of the rides will return, but there will be new features as well. Next year’s carnival will include fewer daytime hours and more nighttime hours, including a Saturday night Midnight Madness to better fit with peak attendance hours.
All of the pre-sale wristbands purchased for the carnival generated revenue for FTD, with several thousand sold, Roberts said. In addition, individual tickets and midway participation added to the overall revenue for the carnival operators.
The board hopes to find additional sponsorships next year to offset the cost of wristbands for area school children. All children at the Chadron primary and intermediate buildings received a wristband this year from generous sponsors, and Bannan said they would like to expand that program to children along Highway 20.
“(MACS Carnival) felt very welcomed by Chadron,” Roberts said. “They enjoyed the community collectively.”
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The second year for the Fur Trade Days board-sponsored street dances also proved to be bigger and better this year, Bannan said. Both nights drew large crowds, though exact estimates were unavailable at press time as the board was still tallying cup sales Monday. The SDL footprint was expanded this year, and two stages were set up on either end, one for opening acts and one for the main attractions. Local bands The Bar Flies and Blues Street opened the Friday and Saturday night events, with the opening acts drawing better attendance over 2018, Roberts said.
“That area is going to be ever changing,” Reeves said, adding that the parameters of the SDL will change as the event changes.
From a law enforcement standpoint, the street dances ran smoothly, said Police Chief Tim Lordino. The Fur Trade Days board hired additional paid security this year, and only two minor in possession citations were issued, he said.
“We’re learning as we’re going along,” Lordino added.
Saturday night’s larger crowd prompted some concern with his department about how long minors were allowed to mingle, and he will likely have some suggestions for next year, though he didn’t elaborate on specific recommendations yet. There were a few over-serving issues that arose, as well, he said, and he looks forward to working with the bar owners on how to make things more efficient and safer in the future.
“We want this event to be fun and safe,” he said.
The larger SDL footprint aided in keeping confrontations down, in Lordino’s opinion, because people had room to move and weren’t accidentally bumping into one another and causing altercations.
The board did hear some negative feedback on street closures for the SDL area, largely due to miscommunication, Bannan said. The streets downtown were closed at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning. To allow for more parking in the downtown district, the board closed half-blocks in some areas, but business owners weren’t notified of the street closures in advance.
“We thought there was going to be a Code Red message sent out,” Bannan explained. That did not occur, and the closure surprised several business owners. The streets have to be closed that early for the event, before many cars arrive, or the police department spends all day moving and towing vehicles, he explained.
The Fur Trade Days board plans to distribute a survey in the coming days, and the public is invited to provide their feedback on the event. For those who cannot answer an online survey, paper copies will be available at the Chadron Chamber of Commerce, Reeves said.
As always, the board reminds the public that the event is run by volunteers and is non-profit. They are in need of additional volunteers, even if it’s only to help with set up or clean up, said board member Jim Hawk, who also expressed gratitude to everyone who came to the volunteered or served as sponsors, and those businesses who helped with last minute needs. It shows that FTD is truly about bringing the community together, he said.
“This was Chadron’s event,” Roberts agreed.